One of the best things about winter, besides Christmas and cooler weather, is using your fireplace. Nothing feels as good, smells as good, or sounds as good as a snapping, crackling fire, especially when there’s the possibility of a little sprinkling of snow falling outside the window. Did you know, though, that there are some hidden dangers that lie inside your fireplace, and that these dangers could lead to threats to the safety and health of your family? Luckily, there are also things that you can do to make sure that your fireplace and chimney system are in the best shape possible to make sure that your home and family stay safe and secure all season long. The number one resource for making sure that this happens? Owens Chimney Systems. We have the tools, the experience, and the resources to make sure that you can burn fires all winter long without worrying about chimney fires or leaks.
The Freeze-Thaw Cycle
One danger that your chimney faces over the course of the winter is the freeze-thaw cycle. The bricks and mortar that make up your chimney are porous material. This means that when precipitation falls, it will soak into those pores and settle there. When the cold temperatures come and the thermometer dips below 32 degrees, that precipitation freezes, expands, and causes the pores to get larger. The next time it rains or sleets, those pores fill and the cycle repeats itself. Those expanded pores can eventually cause cracks in the bricks or mortar, and those cracks will allow the gases and chemicals that escape from the wood during the combustion process to sneak back into your home instead of being directed up and out of your home through the chimney. The smoke and chemicals, which include methane, aldehydes, formic acid, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide (just to name a few) can cause major health issues. For example, smoke can cause burning eyes, a runny nose, or even bronchial conditions. Carbon monoxide can cause even more severe conditions because it is a lethal gas. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, so if it is sneaking back into your home, you may not notice until the effects are severe enough to cause serious illnesses. Early symptoms can include nausea, headaches, upset stomach, or dizziness, but if left untreated, you may experience loss of consciousness or even death.
Another problem that you may experience as you use your chimney more is blockages. As the weather gets windier, there’s a bigger chance that debris, leaves, and twigs will blow into your chimney and create a blockage if your chimney cap isn’t functioning properly. Even more likely, though, is that in the cold temperatures, animals and birds are looking for a warm, dark space, out of the cold wind and precipitation, to build a nest and stay safe. Your chimney makes the perfect spot, and that’s dangerous because it means that the nest will dry out and cause a blockage which could cause your fire to burn less efficiently or, worse yet, catch a spark or ember which may be floating up your chimney and cause a serious chimney fire. A little known fact, however, is that most chimney fires aren’t severe enough to cause the homeowner to even know that one has taken place. This is a danger to your chimney system as well, because if you don’t realize you’ve had a fire, there may be damage that has occurred that you don’t know needs repairing.
Have you noticed dark spots on the ceiling near your fireplace? Is the interior of the chimney damp? How about the walls and trim next to the chimney – are there soft, spongy areas or is the wood showing signs of mildew? If this is the case, the chances are that you have a leak in your chimney. Whether it’s caused by loose flashing, a cracked chimney crown, or a rusted, twisted chimney cap, it’s a situation that shouldn’t be occurring. If you have leaks in your chimney that go unattended, the structure of the chimney could be compromised, and that means major repairs and a major hit to your pocketbook. There’s never a good time for that, whether you’re talking about the mess and disruption that repair work causes or the loss of money that could be spent on holiday gifts and entertaining.
Call in the Pros
The thing is, all of these chimney problems could be avoided. The best thing you can do for your chimney system is to ask the pros at Owens Chimney Systems to come in and do one of their thorough inspections and sweepings. We’ll find the blockages and the leaks and make sure that your chimney is in perfect shape, just in time for the cold weather and fire burning season. Give us a call today to get your chimney inspection on our schedule before the holidays!